#3 Sam Bennett
Team: Calgary Flames
Drafted: 4th Overall in 2014 (Round 1)
The bronze medal of our Top 25 Under 25 goes to a guy that used to be 18 but is no longer 18. 20-year-old Sam Bennett has had quite the couple of seasons since being the highest draft pick in Calgary Flames’ history. From a major surgery, getting a point on his first NHL shift, contributing in the playoffs, to a 4 goal game, Bennett has done a bit of everything.
Sam Bennett is a heck of a player. Ranked as the #1 prospect heading into the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, he failed to do a single pull up at the combine. Whether that ended up being the reason he slid or not, the Flames were able to draft the top ranked prospect at 4th overall. After looking solid in Penticton and some preseason games, it was revealed that Bennett would need a major shoulder surgery, causing him to miss most of his draft+1 season. However, when he recovered and was ready to play, he made the most of it.
Sent back to junior after his surgery, he scored 24 points in 11 games after not playing for months. After his team was quickly knocked out in the first round of the OHL playoffs, the Flames recalled him in time for him to play in a meaningless game 82 against the Winnipeg Jets, where he set up Micheal Ferland for a goal on the first shift of the game. He then got into the line up for the duration of the playoffs, with some big contributions in the team’s first round win against the Vancouver Cancucks.
This past season was quite the roller-coaster for Bennett. While he finished with a very respectable 36 points in 77 games, he was not able to fully find a consistent groove, going through a couple really long goal droughts. The fact that he was that successful offensively while not being consistently in the zone really speaks to what he can do when he is on. If Bennett had received more minutes, powerplay time and some better line mates, he could have achieved that much more. As I have written in the past, he also had some brutal puck luck.
The sky really is the limit for Sam Bennett. Out of the Flames young star forwards, he may have the potential to be the best of any of them. He is a gifted offensive player and he can play with an edge. He throws his body around, he agitates the opposition and he can get on the score sheet. He is the sort of player teams will absolutely hate to play against and that really bodes well for the Flames, as their other star forwards (Monahan and Gaudreau) are more likely to be Lady Byng candidates. Heading into his sophomore NHL season, Bennett will be more prepared for the course of a full year in the league. Combine that with a new coach, being given more opportunities to thrive and having better line mates, we could see a big leap forward for Sam Bennett as soon as this upcoming season. He is going to be a huge part of this team in the years to come.